mobilization briefs
February 9

Mobilization in Russia for Feb. 6-8, 2024 CIT Volunteer Summary

Authorities and Legislation

The Federation Council [upper house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] has unanimously approved a bill to penalize "crimes against the security of the Russian Federation" with asset seizures. Earlier, the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] had passed the bill in consecutive second and third readings. For further details about the bill and its implications, refer to our previous summaries (1, 2, 3, 4) and the analysis written by legal experts from Pervyi Otdel [Department One, a human rights project].

The Federation Council has also approved a bill on pausing the fixed-term contracts of mobilized government employees. Under the current legislation, these contracts can expire during periods of military service, leaving public servants uncertain about job availability upon return. With the new provision, fixed-term employment contracts will be paused, ensuring job security.

The Ministry of Defense is proposing to harmonize the age limit for contract and mobilized soldiers. It has published the draft of a federal bill, suggesting that the upper age limit for all service members be set at 65 years during periods of mobilization or martial law, or 70 years for senior officers. Until now, only individuals enlisting after June 24, 2023, were required to serve up to the age of 65. The upper age limit for other contract soldiers is 50 years, while the limit for mobilized soldiers had been raised to 55 years on Jan. 1, 2024. The Voyennye Advokaty [Military Lawyers] Telegram channel notes that the bill would not lead to the mobilization of men older than 55 years. Andrey Kartapolov, Chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma, indicated that the public consultation stage of this legislative initiative will last until Feb. 22.

Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu has approved the document templates used to compensate members of volunteer fighter units. Additionally, he has approved the template for certificates issued by military medical boards to verify the severity of injuries, disabilities, traumas or concussions.

Protests in Bashkortostan

Governor of Bashkortostan [Russia's constituent republic] Radiy Khabirov disagreed to honor the memory of Rifat Dautov who died soon after being detained by riot police. Renowned dancer of Bashkortostan, Rif Gabitov, suggested a minute of silence be observed at the meeting the governor organized with representatives of the World Qoroltai of the Bashkirs and top art and science figures. Earlier, a few prominent public figures of the republic urged the authorities to stop the persecution of protesters, while Khabirov himself, during a pro-government rally, "extended a friendly hand" to those who do not agree with his policies. Dautov’s funeral was held in Bashkortostan a few days ago with heavy police presence. According to independent project OVD-Info, more than 2,800 appeals demanding to investigate Dautov’s death were sent to the Investigative Committee through Woodpecker, an email automation tool developed by human rights groups.

Umutbay Davletberdin, who was detained on the night of Feb. 5 and indicted for his role in civil unrest, will be held in a pre-trial detention center until March 17, as ordered by the Ufa court. Davletberdin remains in the pre-trial detention center despite having provided proof of his tuberculosis affliction. There have also been reports about the arrest of environmental activist Yulay Ayupov. The court placed him into custody until April 6 for participation in mass unrest. Thus, criminal cases have already been opened against at least 55 protesters in Bashkortostan.

The courts in Bashkortostan have by far reviewed as many as 152 cases of misdemeanor related to the protests in Baymak, with charges pressed for failure to obey a police order and for organizing unauthorized rallies.

Authorities and Relatives of Mobilized Soldiers

It appears that journalists have successfully identified a staff member of the General Directorate for Countering Extremism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, known as "Center E," who is surveilling the activists of the Put Domoy [Way Home] movement under the guise of being a journalist. Aleksandr Pelevin was detained along with journalists at a rally on Feb. 3 and was among the first to be released. He claimed to be a journalist for Kommersant, however, no journalist by that name exists at the media house. Furthermore, there are no articles attributed to Pelevin in the Glavnye sobytiya (Main Events) media outlet — a press ID from which he usually presents. Maria Andreeva reported that Pelevin consistently attends all actions involving the wives of mobilized soldiers while posing as a journalist. According to the Mozhem Ob'yasnit [We Can Explain] Telegram channel, in previous years, he tracked opposition activists.

The Vladimir regional Telegram chat of the Put Domoy movement has closed down. This happened as a result of an "ideological schism" and "radicalization" within the movement. As the movement's press service explained to the Dovod [independent Russian media outlet], "We believe many have become scared. The others simply did not know how to motivate the groups or did not want to put in the effort."

Army Recruitment and Military Service Advertising

The Govorit NeMoskva [NonMoscow Is Speaking] Telegram channel has studied the increase in sign-up bonuses for individuals willing to sign a contract with the Ministry of Defense to participate in the war with Ukraine:

  • The Governor of the Volgograd region, Andrey Bocharov, has announced a threefold increase in the one-time sign-up bonus, raising it from 100,000 rubles [$1,090] to 300,000 rubles [$3,280].
  • Conscripts from the Krasnoyarsk region have also seen a threefold increase in payments for signing a contract with the Ministry of Defense, rising from 100,000 rubles [$1,090] to 300,000 rubles [$3,280].
  • In the Krasnodar region, the payment amount has grown from 200,000 rubles [$2,190] to 300,000 rubles [$3,280].
  • In the Smolensk region, regional payments have been increased from 150,000 rubles [$1,640] to 205,000 rubles [$2,240].
  • In Tatarstan [Russia’s constituent Republic], the payments for those willing to sign a contract were increased from 100,000 rubles [$1,090] to 300,000 rubles [$3,280] back in November.

In Moscow, schoolchildren visiting the draft offices for initial military registration are compelled to undergo a survey. The survey includes questions about behavior on social media, participation in protests, elections, and the general lifestyle in the country.

A recent raid against migrants took place in the suburban town of Podolsk. As a result, four individuals were called up for military service, and two received administrative fines. In a similar raid in the city of Shchyolkovo, draft notices were issued to four more migrants who had acquired Russian citizenship. In total, 41 people have been registered for military service in Shchyolkovo since the beginning of the year.

Thirteen people from the Taishet district of the Irkutsk region have been sent to the war after signing contracts with the Ministry of Defense. Among them is Dmitry Charushnikov, the head of the village of Shelayevo.

As highlighted by the Dovod [Argument] independent media outlet, the Ministry of Defense official website still states that contracts can be signed for a one-year period and then terminated by mutual agreement. It is worth noting that after the mobilization was announced in Russia, all contracts became open-ended.

In Syktyvkar, a 25-year-old Nikolay Udoratin, Member of the Town Council from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, who claimed persecution for his anti-war statements, was called up for regular biannual conscription into the army back in November 2023. However, this information only became known in February when he resigned from his position prematurely.

Mobilized Soldiers, Volunteer Fighters and Contract Soldiers

The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Roman Tselikov from the Omsk region and Andrey Tsybulka from Buryatia [Russia's constituent republic].

It has also been reported that 18-year-old Anton Kudinov died in the war with Ukraine. Anton had signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense in August 2023, immediately after graduating from a boarding school, which also caters to orphaned children. It's noteworthy that authorities had previously amended legislation to allow 18-year-olds to sign contracts immediately after completing their education. Furthermore, authorities promise housing to orphans for signing contracts, which they are already entitled to receive from the state.

Wives of volunteer fighters from the Samara region, who had signed contracts with the Ministry of Defense, complain that their husbands have not received the promised one-time sign-up bonuses of 150,000 rubles [$1,640] pledged by Governor Dmitry Azarov. Military officials are refusing the payments to the soldiers, citing their deployment not to the 25th Army, but to other military units.

Based on data from the Central Bank, Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] calculated that in 2023, 110,500 men, including contract and mobilized soldiers as well as volunteer fighters, obtained deferments on loans. Since the start of mobilization in September 2022, over 278,000 military personnel have benefited from such deferments. Reports published by the Central Bank highlight the influx of new participants in the war. Additionally, the Vyorstka media outlet draws attention to the increase in travel bans imposed due to debts. From January to December 2023, the number of these bans surged by 41.3%, reaching 6.5 million men.

Sentences, Legal Proceedings and Incidents

According to the Astra Telegram channel, on the night of Feb. 7 in the vicinity of the occupied village of Kuryachovka in the Luhansk region, Aleksandr Steblin, a serviceman of the 272nd Motorized Rifle Regiment, discharged his assault rifle during an alcohol-fueled gathering with his fellow servicemen. The altercation resulted in the deaths of two individuals on the scene, while another was hospitalized with a gunshot wound. Steblin was subsequently apprehended and handed over to military police.

The case of Junior Sergeant Igor Sudin, who had been previously acquitted of the murder of an FSB employee during a shootout at a café in Kherson—resulting in the deaths of three individuals and the severe injury of another—has been reopened for further court proceedings. Despite a prior jury acquittal, the appellate court overturned the verdict, leading to a retrial without a jury.

Warrant Officer Aleksandr Zhivitchenko, who under the influence of alcohol, discharged his firearm at subordinates, resulting in the death of one, saw his sentence reduced from 26 to 14 years. Zhivitchenko was tasked with "restoring order" at the former location of his unit but consumed two bottles of vodka en route. Upon arrival, he held a pistol to his head in front of soldiers in formation, threatening to shoot them and then himself. Ultimately, he opened fire on the soldiers, fatally wounding one of them.

In the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region–Yugra [Russia's federal subject], a request for pardon for a convict who fought in Ukraine is being reviewed. According to his request, he was sentenced to a penal colony by court decision and, while serving his sentence, signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense to participate in the war. He sustained injuries and is now seeking a pardon. The details of the article and the length of imprisonment are undisclosed.

The Tomsk Garrison Military Court has found soldier Aleksey Zharkov guilty of causing moderate bodily harm. During a drunken quarrel, Zharkov struck his acquaintance several times. Zharkov had previously been convicted of theft. For the aggregate of these two cases, the court imposed a fine of 55,000 rubles [$600] on him.

A 22-year-old contract soldier from Yaroslavl has been placed on the federal wanted list for going AWOL. It is known that the soldier did not return to his unit near Pskov after being on leave due to injury. His whereabouts have been unknown for over a year.

The Novosibirsk Garrison Military Court has sentenced soldier Aleksandr Ivantsov to six years in a penal colony for going AWOL twice.

Garrison Military Courts in the Southern Military District have reviewed several new criminal cases against military personnel who refused to deploy to the war in Ukraine:

  • Contract soldier Konstantin Aslanov was sentenced to two and a half years in a penal settlement. According to the court, he refused to go to the frontline on three occasions: on May 26, May 30, and June 2, 2023. Mitigating factors recognized by the court include Aslanov's participation in the war and the awards he received.
  • Mobilized soldier Nikolay Syrisyko was sentenced to two years and four months in a penal settlement upon review of his case. The verdict stated that he refused to go on a service trip to Crimea for subsequent deployment to a combat zone, "fearing for his life and health."
  • Mobilized soldier Aleksandr Lobkov was sentenced to two years in a penal settlement. In March 2023, while in the territory of his unit, he refused to comply with an order to deploy to the frontline. Lobkov's injury was considered a mitigating factor.
  • In Makhachkala, contract soldier Akhmed Kurbanov was sentenced to two years in a penal settlement. On July 4, 2023, while at the headquarters, he refused to go to the frontline citing health reasons and the expiration of his contract.
  • Contract soldier Edgar Ibadullaev was sentenced to two years and two months in a penal settlement. He explained his refusal to deploy to the frontline by the need for home treatment and the fact that he had no one to look after his two small children.

An unidentified individual set fire to the building of a traction power substation in the city of Tula. The fire damaged the facade and interior walls of the premises. The equipment remained intact and there was no disruption in traffic. Authorities are searching for the arsonist.

The First Western District Military Court sentenced student Andrey Vasyurenko to nine years in prison on charges of incitement to terrorist activity and preparation for incitement to treason. According to investigators, from May to November 2022, the student had allegedly attempted to persuade Russians to join the Armed Forces of Ukraine to participate in combat operations.

The Supreme Court of Kabardino-Balkaria [Russia's constituent republic] has sentenced 36-year-old local resident Erik Konokov to six years in a maximum security penal colony for planning to participate in the war on the side of Ukraine. He was charged with treason and incitement to extremism online. Reportedly, Konokov sought to join the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and attempted to travel to Ukraine through Belarus in March 2023 but was detained.

A resident of Tyumen was detained for allegedly corresponding with a chatbot of the "Freedom of Russia Legion."  According to Astra, criminal proceedings have been initiated against 33-year-old Andrey G. for aiding terrorist activities.

A new case has been initiated against Mikhail Ishchenko from Khimki, who was previously detained for hooliganism for burning the tricolor Russian flag. He was incriminated with attempted participation in an illegal armed group. Law enforcement officers allegedly found correspondence with a representative of the "Russian Volunteer Corps" on his device.